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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 9th June 2013

A while ago someone asked me to put together a video about Aconitum napellus, monkshood. I say a while ago but it was really a long time. I did think about what stories I wanted to tell about the plant and, once I'd worked that out, I needed to find something before I could proceed.

Finally, I found what I wanted and had a notion of what I wanted to include so could set about recording the commentary because I do that first, albeit with some video ideas in mind.

The first attempt came out at over ten minutes and though I know YouTube allows for longer videos these days I was concerned that the length might be a deterrent for some people. Since I knew I would be saving the best for last I didn't want to risk people moving on before the end.

After trying to reduce the total length, I settled on a split into two stand alone presentations. The first to be a fairly general account of the plant and the way it has been used, including one use that I think is not well-known (unless you've read 'Is That Cat Dead?' of course). Here is that first video.

The second video tells the story of the 1881 murder of Percy John when his brother-in-law, Dr George Henry Lamson, gave him aconitine, the main toxin found in the plant, in the hope of profiting by inheriting the young man's limited resources.

The interest in that story is that people still dispute the way in which the poison was administered and, I believe, I can explain it. You can watch the finished story and see what you think.

The dispute about how Percy John came to be poisoned seems to be another example of people clinging to beliefs that the facts don't support. While doing some checks before making the recording I came across a good example of that.

I was checking on the size of a fatal dose when I found, in one of my books, an account of the murder that claims to be based on what Dr Lamson said at his trial. The problem, for the authors, is that the full trial transcript is available to anyone and it shows, not just that the method they claim did not occur, but that Lamson did not give evidence at his trial.

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